on the menu: caesar vinaigrette

On June 19, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Here is the recipe for the caesar vinaigrette I’m putting on various kale-heavy salads lately. I can’t get enough of this kind of salad; handfuls of kale and spring greens with enough variegated debris to make it interesting, doused with a punchy, sour vinaigrette.

kale salad

This vinaigrette is cobbled together from a few recipes and features significantly more vinegar than is usual for anyone, evidently. I don’t really measure any of this, I approximate based on these amounts.

2 T sherry vinegar (champagne or white wine vinegar also works)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest (or, in a pinch, juice)
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp honey
dash worcestershire sauce
generous pinch of herbs de provence
1/3 c olive oil (Maybe less. I like a vinegar heavy dressing, some would use more like 1/2 or 2/3 c oil.  A nice grassy green oil is excellent here, and one with more of a black olive flavor is lovely, too.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c freshly shredded Pecorino cheese (or skip this and grate big ribbons over the salad, or do both.)
salt and pepper to taste

Shake it up, dresses two large portions.

For example I pour about half over a mixing bowl full of vegetable matter. I’m not sharing that.

I like to shake rather than employ some tool to emulsify, was recently reading that shredding the olive oil can bring out a bitterness that shaking prevents. This dressing has so many powerful flavors that it probably wouldn’t make a significant difference but shaking is also quick and easy. I use a trusty Ball jar.

Also recommended: pimentón on avocado.

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on the menu: birdseed bran muffins

On July 19, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I enjoy cooking from flour, local chef Joanne Chang‘s first cookbook. It’s full of the kind of dessert-esque breakfast/brunch items I always want. This week I tried the addictive bran muffins (link to recipe), which won me over with the ‘birdseed’ topping.

flour bakery birdseed bran muffins

I made a few adjustments to work with what I had on hand, sour cream instead of crème fraîche, cream instead of milk, a little coconut flour and coconut oil just because, some mashed banana, some cinnamon, extra raisins. I also added white and black sesame seeds (to the prescribed flax seeds, millet, and sunflower seeds) to make things ultra-birdseedy. I also halved the recipe. With all these changes, the texture still came out nicely – to weather such haphazardness is a mark of a solid recipe.

One thing I would say is that the quantities are sometimes high. I think I routinely halve these recipes, and in this case I still made about 12 muffins, which is the yield given…so something is not quite adding up. But I don’t care, as long as the muffins are good.

flour bakery birdseed bran muffins

These are dense, not too sweet muffins, which seem not outright unhealthy, as is the case with certain muffins, and which improve with grilling or strawberry-rhubarb jam or both.

flour bakery birdseed bran muffins

Happy baking!

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on the menu: banana coconut waffles

On June 12, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

The waffle experimentation continues here chez sphinx. Going strong with my All-Clad Belgian waffle iron.

banana coconut waffles

This time I substituted all of the oil for coconut oil and about 1/4 of the flour for coconut flour, then say 1/2 c of moisture for mashed banana. Buttermilk over milk every time. I also added sparkling water, which, in conjunction with the baking soda/vinegar (from the buttermilk) mix, makes the batter bizarrely fluffy, and the waffles deliciously fluffy (want to try it with sparkling wine later…). I adapted the buttermilk waffles recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, which is often too elaborate for my taste but which is full of good techniques. I didn’t use buttermilk powder, for example, as the recipe suggests, I just used buttermilk.

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c coconut flour
1 T coconut sugar
3/4 t table salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t nutmeg
1/2 c milk (to sit with 2 T cider vinegar for a few minutes*)
1/2 c mashed ripe banana
2 large eggs
1/4 t vanilla extract
1/4 c coconut oil
1 1/4 c unflavored seltzer water

*The standard buttermilk recipe is 1 c milk to 1 T lemon juice or vinegar but I love vinegar, so my ratio is more like 1 c of milk to 4 T vinegar…still doesn’t read as vinegar in the final product.

Whisk dry ingredients, mix wet ingredients excepting seltzer, gently add seltzer to wet ingredients, stir wet into dry being careful not to overmix (batter should be lumpy). Can add berries or chocolate chips at this point, or any other debris. Iron away.

banana coconut waffles

Jars Ceramics plate

It’s increasingly rare that waffles go wrong for me.

banana coconut waffles

Now if I could only work out pancakes, with which I find experimentation a risky proposition.

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on the menu: whole roasted branzino

On May 22, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve been wanting try new fish, and new methods of cooking fish. Whole roasted branzino is easy with great presentation value.

roasting branzino

Instagrammed

I started roasting some fingerling potatoes about 30 minutes in advance as the fish cooks quickly, especially in a hot oven. There is a range of roasting approaches, ranging from ~20+ minutes at 350° to 10 minutes at 500°. I went for a happy medium, around 16 minutes in a 425° oven. I jumbled together a few recipes, mainly this one and this one.

branzino

Pillivuyt Eden porcelain oval baking dish

I was really pleased with the flavor and texture of this branzino, a.k.a. Greek sea bass. There is the appeal, too, of the fish being fresher and less expensive when purchased whole (I didn’t gut it myself, though this would be pretty badass to be able to do, and I aspire). The cavity can be stuffed with any number of herbs and accents, I used lemon, basil, garlic, thyme, and salt.

branzino

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on the menu: eggs en cocotte

On May 17, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

Eggs en cocotte are a surprisingly quick and simple breakfast, all you need is the ambition to pre-heat the oven.

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A cocotte is formally a covered casserole or Dutch oven (any size) but is also often used as a synonym for ramekin. A cover isn’t at all necessary, so any ramekin or oven-proof teacup is fine here, 6-8oz is ideal. Even a muffin pan will work, though I prefer the ease of serving and the uniform heating of either porcelain or ceramic. Great for brunch as you can put them together in an assembly line, and your serving capacity is only limited by the number of cute little oven-safe dishes you have. It’s convenient if they are all more or less the same size, so they will cook uniformly.

IMG_9188

Adorable 8oz mini cocotte from Le Creuset in Caribbean

Add-ons will improve the situation, but eggs, butter and cream alone will do just fine. I like to include any combination of the following: bacon, ham, parsley, cilantro, asiago, gruyere, cheddar, parmesan, chives, scapes, dill, basil, scallions, caramelized onions, sauteed vegetables…anything you would put in an omelet, really.

What you do:

Pre-heat oven to 375°

Heat water in a kettle

Liberally butter (unsalted) the base and sides of cocotte(s), leave a little pat of butter in the bottom.

Layer add-ons into the cocotte as desired. Here I’ve layered scallions, garlic scapes, cooked bacon lardons (+ dash of bacon fat), cheddar, asiago.

Add one or two eggs, depending on the size of your cocotte and hunger levels. Add salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Pour in a dash (anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 Tbsp) of cream (cream on the bottom also popular). Add a little more cheese on top (this is non-traditional, but I like a lot of cheese).

Place cocottes in a casserole dish (I add a paper towel to the bottom so they don’t slide around) and pour hot (not quite boiling) water around such that the water level comes half-way up the sides of the cocotte. The water bath/bain marie helps keep the eggs tender and evenly cooked.

Cook 10-15 minutes, depending on your taste and the size of your ramekins. I like to cook for about 10-12 minutes and then broil for 1 to brown that cheese but still have the yolk soft. The broiler business is non-traditional and an easy way to overcook the egg, so be careful with this if you try it.

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Very little trial and error is required to figure out what the best cooking time is for your favorite kind of egg. It’s never too late to add more garnish at the end, either, herbs especially. I’ve been putting garlic scapes on everything to great effect lately.

Don’t forget the coffee.

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